Dear White Police Officer,
I would guess that the only thing worse than being the victim of abuse, poverty, illness, neglect, or systematic intolerance right now, is being a white, male police officer in the United States. I could be wrong, but from the tone of the national (and international) coverage and conversation, you guys have it pretty bad right now. I want to start out by saying that I am a black woman and I don’t hate white men. I am married to a white man, so please hear me out. (Based on the comment section of my TED Talk, a whole group of people will stop reading because I’m in an interracial marriage. Guess what? This letter isn’t for you, anyway.)
So, I had ‘the talk’ with my 17 year-old son after Trayvon Martin died. Despite being technically multiracial, my son is a black man and the world will always treat him as such. I am one of the many mothers, citizens, and businesspeople who desperately want to trust the American justice system because I grew up in the same America that you did. I’m proud of my nation, I am grateful for our many freedoms, but I am devastated at the disparate treatment of people in this country; a nation founded on such noble values. How can we trust in law enforcement with the senseless loss of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice….and so many others whose lives mean so little that we haven’t even been counting them.
My heart goes out first to the black families who have lost their fathers, sons, cousins, uncles, brothers, nephews, and grandsons at the hand of those sworn to protect them. My heart also goes out to those white men who wear the blue uniform and who honorably protect and serve ALL people equally. There are many good, honest, fair, hardworking, white police officers getting tossed in and mistaken for the merciless few who have displayed overt or unconscious bias against blacks.
We know that you exist, Noble Officer, and we also know what it feels like to have throngs of people mistrust you based on the misguided actions of a few. That’s what racism feels like every…single…day. Black people have grown so dangerously accustomed to being mistreated that our response to the growing body of quantitative, objective evidence of phenomena we have always know to be true is……well, sad. Officer, you are probably thinking about race more than ever now. You are likely being very careful and nervously looking over your shoulder for the smartphone that could, at any moment, document in or out of context, your actions as an on-duty officer. You are just trying to do your job, I know. Every day black people just try to drive down the street, just try to shop, just try to carry on living all while being judged, underserved, mistreated, stereotyped, underpaid, undervalued, and generally taken for granted as members of this great society.
Officer, I hope you remember this feeling when the storm passes, because it will. I don’t know why black people don’t stand up, unite, and show the world the power we have by organizing methodically and refusing to work on the same day all across the nation. I imagine a few people might notice if we all stayed home. I don’t understand why 100% of the black voters who haven’t been disenfranchised don’t actually vote. Failing to vote is one way that we voluntarily give up our power. We want to trust you. Let’s have an honest dialogue so we can finally move on. Dr. Gail Christopher said it best, “You have this embedded belief that there are different human beings on the planet who behave differently, who think differently, but most painfully, who deserve to be treated differently.” This is part of what she calls the fallacy of the hierarchy of human value. Our nation will never be healed until we all acknowledge that just as the earth is no longer perceived as flat, all people are inherently equal. To believe that some lives/races/genders/etc. matter more than others is as absurd as believing that the sun revolves around the earth. We’ve had our wake up call. It’s time for a paradigm shift.
Tiffany Jana, CEO
TMI Consulting, Inc
Shifting diversity from a liability to an asset